As actors enter their 112th day on strike, Beanie Feldstein, Christopher Meloni, Zachary Quinto, Bill Irwin and Carrie Preston marched in New York City this week as the union’s negotiating committee and Hollywood studios inch closer to a deal. Although discussions around AI protections have divided the two parties, both sides have made strides to reach a resolution on actors’ minimum pay.
For Booksmart’s Feldstein, she expressed her gratitude for the union members at the bargaining table with Hollywood studios and streamers from the New York city picket lines Monday.
“I’m knocking on all the wood and I’m wishing they press to get everything we’ve been fighting for,” Feldstein tells Rolling Stone.
With major TV and film productions at a standstill for months, Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has granted hundreds of interim agreements, or a contract that permits independently produced and financed productions not affiliated with the big Hollywood studios, to continue filming or casting. On the picket lines, striking actors Irwin and Preston have expressed their support for interim agreements, including The Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes which received a SAG-approved contract allowing its stars to promote the film.
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which cost $100 million to produce, marks the first installment of the billion-dollar franchise without its key player Jennifer Lawerence. But with an interim agreement, the film’s star cast of Rachel Zegler, Hunter Schafer, Peter Dinklage and Viola Davis can attend film premieres, fan events, make promotional posts on social media, and conduct press interviews — since its distributor, Lionsgate, is not part of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which SAG-AFTRA is negotiating with, and the film is satisfying SAG’s terms.
For Preston (Claws), who’s been marching alongside union members three times a week, the interim agreement issued to the Hunger Games prequel serves as an example of a fair agreement made between SAG-AFTRA and independent producers.
“It keeps showing the public and showing the AMPTP that they’re being unreasonable and that there are people who are willing to give us what we deserve,” Preston tells Rolling Stone. “We’re not fighting for new stuff. We’re fighting for stuff that we should have gotten at the beginning of streaming.”
The film’s interim agreement status adds it to a long list of starry SAG-AFTRA-approved projects like A24’s Priscilla and The Iron Claw, as well as Michael Mann’s Ferrari. These films can promote their latest works, while other anticipated prestige films like Sony’s GameStop saga Dumb Money, featuring Seth Rogen, Pete Davidson and America Ferrera, hit theaters in September without an interim agreement/actor promo and flopped at the box office.
But interim-agreement projects have faced their own challenges. At the American Film Market, an independent film networking and financing event held in Santa Monica, California, an indie sales executive told The Hollywood Reporter that the actors’ strike has left a larger mark than the writers’ strike, creating a “general production slowdown.”
“Even outside the U.S., so many of the major international actors are SAG and it’s been tricky, with a waiver or not, because actors, quite rightly, have been very careful [of working during the strike],” Christian Vesper, CEO of Global Drama at indie outfit Fremantle, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Some interim-agreement projects have completed casting but are unable to move the production forward. The Exchange’s CEO Brian O’Shea, for example, secured an interim agreement but told The Hollywood Reporter that it’s hard to determine budgets for actors’ residuals, adding, “two or three percentage points on the residuals can make the difference between getting a film made or not.”
Other projects that received interim agreements, like Ethan Hawke’s Flannery O’Connor biopic Wildcat, exited the fall festival season on a high note but without a domestic buyer.
When the Writers Guild of America ratified their deal with Hollywood studios and streamers on Oct. 9, it instilled hope that SAG-AFTRA would be next to land a contract, and that the TV and film industry would get back on its feet. To actors like Irwin (Rachel Getting Married), he believes independent producers who receive interim agreements should be supported. In the meantime, he’s spending his mornings at the SAG-AFTRA picket lines, telling Rolling Stone, “It’s beautiful to be part of this collective action every day.”